The initiative has provided 35 curators more than £1.8 million over the past six years in order to fully fund research and the acquisition of new artworks. The latest quintet to be selected are curatorial staff from National Galleries of Scotland, Pitt Rivers Museum, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, V&A and National Trust.

Each of the five winning curators will now receive a budget for purchasing artworks alongside a stipend for research, travel and training, in addition to ongoing support from a mentor and Art Fund.

Art Fund
National Galleries of Scotland - ‘Niqab’ Purdah - The Sacred Cloth © Arpita Shah

“Supporting curators and their development is core to Art Fund’s charitable programme,” according to the charity’s director, Jenny Waldman. “Museums have been closed for much of this year due to the pandemic, but curators are still caring for, researching, and expanding museum collections for the benefit of audiences.

“During a year in which we all are reflecting more deeply on critical issues including equality and diversity, we are delighted to support projects broadening representation in UK collections.”

The 2020 winners

Louise Pearson, Curator (Photography), National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh

Louise Pearson will use Scotland’s census data to identify groups which are underrepresented in the national photography collection and address these gaps by acquiring and commissioning photographs that reflect the true breadth of Scotland’s population.

These groups are likely to include single parent families, people of a mixed ethnic background, individuals from the Pakistani and Polish communities and residents of the Scottish islands.

Marenka Thompson-Odlum, Research Associate, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

Marenka Thompson-Odlum will collect new works by indigenous artists from around the world to question and interact with the colonial past of the museum’s collections and find new ways of telling stories. The project will focus on the following indigenous cultures: Ainu (Japan), Haida (North America), Edo (Nigeria), and Polynesian (focusing on Hawaii).

It is an extension of Thompson-Odlum’s Labelling Matters project, which explores the often-problematic historic language used within the Pitt Rivers Museum when referring to objects. The new indigenous works will focus on language and self- determination and include works that use written language, textile works, sculptures and performance art (video / digital art).

Andrew Ferrara, Project Curator, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Norwich

Andrew Ferrara’s project will build a collection of exemplar medieval East Anglia coins, ranging from the 7th to 12th century, which will help expand the numismatic collections of Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and deepen the understanding of the region’s medieval history.

Xiaoxin Li, Curator (China), V&A, London

Xiaoxin Li will research and collect contemporary Chinese studio craft, a field significantly under-represented both inside and outside China. Li will help expand the V&A’s expertise on the field by acquiring applied art works created using craft techniques from the 1980s to today.

Catherine Troiano, Curator, National Photography Collections, National Trust

Catherine Troiano will develop a collection of photography since the 1970s, that represents diverse experiences of British heritage and speaks to local, regional and national histories.

The project seeks to expand the Trust’s existing national collections of photography, which are richest in material from the 1840s to the mid-twentieth century. Collecting will focus on emerging and established photographers working in Britain, whose work engages with varied perspectives of identity, land and history.

The New Collecting Awards are made possible by the generosity of individuals and trusts such as the Wolfson Foundation, the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts, and the Coral Samuel Charitable Trust.

The latest instalment of Art Fund’s initiative includes a ring-fenced Award for a curator to build a pre-1600 collection for their museum, supported specifically by the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts. This funding will be channelled into Andrew Ferrara’s project at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

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